Title : The Three Musketeers
Author : Alexandre Dumas
Series : D’Artagnan Romances
Language : English
Genres : Historical fiction
Publication year: 2011
Publisher : Collins Classics – Harper Press
Pages : 801 (novel story only, without preface etc.)
ISBN : 978-0-00-790215-6
Reading the title, the book cover and the book identity I placed, I would like to say “Where have you been this time?!” if you didn’t recognize the book I am going to assess. Yes, I brought to you the classic literature which its signature sentence, “One for all and all for one!”, we have heard; the ancient novel which has been brought to the big screen lots of time, the last being last year’s The Three Musketeers starring Logan Lerman.
There have been a lot of versions of The Three Musketeers in English pages by a wide array of publishers, yet for me they are all the same. I chose Collins’ version because the company publishes lots of classic literature novels under the banner “Collins Classics”.
Of many titles of classic literature, The Three Musketeers seems to be one of the favorites. Why? From its films, many have said that it is because of its adventurous and humorous style, where our M. d’Artagnan had to face a confrontation with the Duke of Buckingham, Cardinal Richeliu and Count de Rochefort, who are the antagonists of the story. Many have also said that it is because of the past romance between Athos and Lady de Winter, who is actually Cardinal’s spy. Many have said too that it is because d’Artagnan’s adventure to London that interests them to read the story.
Well, I couldn’t agree nor disagree with these ideas people nowadays have towards this classic novel. If you read it until about 250th page, you would find that the film’s plot usually ends there, leaving about 550 pages to be read. I was surprised by these facts I was introduced to, for the actual ending and plot threads are more complicated and exciting than what we saw in the big screens. Now, before we comprehend more about d’Artagnan’s story, let’s learn of the genius who wrote this novel, Alexandre Dumas.
One of great French novelists in his age, Dumas’s work is often compared with Victor Hugo’s for the similarity of their theme: romanticism. The main difference is that Dumas wrote in adventurous style – almost heroically – while Hugo focused on humanism. His works are mostly influenced by France’s condition in his age. The country had just undergone July Revolution of 1830, caused by Napoleon’s exile which left France in a chaos state that led to attempts to restore the monarchy. That time, French were in a condition where the memories of their past’s glory became an attractive. Its air of nostalgia and this melancholy of remembrance caused Dumas’s novels to offer a lot of escapism and romanticism that bring the readers to a world of adventure and excitement. This element, accompanied by his own father’s experiences as a general in Napoleon’s army, made Dumas’s novels what they are right now.
The Three Musketeers opens with d’Artagnan arrived at an inn in the city of Meung. There, an older man derided d’Artagnan’s horse and, feeling insulted, d’Artagnan demands a duel with him. d’Artagnan was beaten unconscious by the man’s companions and his letter of introduction to Monsieur de Tréville, the captain of the musketeers, was stolen by that older man who was later seen talked with a beautiful lady in a carriage.
Despite of this unpleasant event, d’Artagnan rode to Paris and actually met with Monsieur de Tréville, who was also his father’s childhood friend, in his hotel where King Louis XIII decided as the headquarters of the musketeers regiment that time. Monsieur de Tréville eventually gave d’Artagnan a letter of recommendation to the Royal Academy when suddenly d’Artagnan spotted the man who stole his letter of introduction in Meung. D’Artagnan rushed down the building and chased after the man, offending making appointments of duel with Athos, Porthos and Aramis respectively and separately in the process. He couldn’t find the man, so he went to his duel with Athos. Athos brought Porthos and Aramis as his seconds to d’Artagnan’s surprise. They agreed to duel anyway, but even before their swords hit each other, the quarrel was interrupted and put to stop by the cardinal’s guards, who always looked for trouble with the musketeers as king’s guards.
D’Artagnan, though he was not a musketeer, defended himself against cardinal’s guards with the three musketeers and seriously wounded one of the best guards. Monsieur de Tréville learnt of this and told the King, who appointed d’Artagnan to Monsieur des Essarts’ company of guards and gave him forty pistoles (currency of that time, French term of Spanish coins) with a promise to make him a musketeer after two years of service in the regimen. D’Artagnan hired a servant, found lodging and made a very good friend with Athos, Porthos and Aramis who had been a company during that time.
After his landlord asked for d’Artagnan’s help to find his kidnapped wife, Constance Bonacieux, d’Artagnan set out to find Madame Bonacieux and eventually fell in love with her. Madame Bonacieux worked for Anne of Austria, King Louis XIII’s wife, who in that time had secretly conducted an affair with Duke of Buckingham. Queen Anne gave the Duke her diamond studs for the Duke’s remembrance of her since the Duke came secretly with in a situation where both France and England were in position to have a war. The Cardinal, who always wanted a war between the countries, advised the King to check if Queen Anne still had the diamond studs he gave to her. To make sure of this, Cardinal sent the lady d’Artagnan had seen in Meung who was actually his spy, Lady de Winter, to steal two of the twelve studs from the Duke of Buckingham. Queen Anne realized of this plot, and Madame Bonacieux, who had heard of the problem, offered herself to find the solution.
Madame Bonacieux asked her husband, but didn’t succeed because of his cowardice. D’Artagnan, who had declared his love for Madame Bonacieux, volunteered. Madame Bonacieux trusted him to do the mission, starting to reciprocate d’Artagnan’s feeling. D’Artagnan left at once with his musketeer friends and their servants. Because of constant encounter with Cardinal’s men and his friends’ sacrifices, only d’Artagnan and his servant managed to arrive at Buckingham’s palace and retrieved the diamond studs back. D’Artagnan delivered the studs just in time when the Queen needed it.
Soon, Madame Bonacieux made an appointment with d’Artagnan. D’Artagnan presented himself to the meeting very amorously and happily, but Madame Bonacieux was kidnapped that very night. D’Artagnan was left heartbroken and furious as he searched for her. Before that, he decided to find his friends, and they returned to Paris. One day, he spotted the lady he had seen in Meung and acquainted with Lady de Winter whom he recognized as one of the Cardinal’s agents, yet he advanced and began to love her.
After several meetings with Lady de Winter, d’Artagnan learnt from Lady’s handmaiden that she was indifferent towards him. He decided to take revenge for it by pretending as a man whom the Lady had professed love to. But, during the tryst, he discovered that she was branded, proven by a fleur-de-lys sign on her left shoulder. D’Artagnan eventually confessed to Lady de Winter that he fooled her the next night and eluded her attempt to kill him and was ordered to go with his regimen of the guards of Monsieur des Essarts to the siege of La Rochelle.
At the same time, Lady de Winter was given a new assignment by the Cardinal: to assassinate the Duke of Buckingham so that France could defeat more easily. Meanwhile, d’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis was informed by the Lady’s handmaiden about her task and that Lady de Winter was involved in Madame Bonacieux’s abduction. Athos, who had a secret past with Lady de Winter, swore to help his friend to defeat her. What would d’Artagnan and his friends do? Did Lady de Winter succeed in her mission? And would d’Artagnan with his true love in the end? Those mysteries would have to be solved by your own by buying this book.
I would definitely recommend this book to you. Alexandre Dumas had written one of the best novels in humankind’s history. His words are humorous, adventurous and amorous at the same time, but this combination of style is not cliché. He wrote this novel from a historian’s perspective in third-person narrative style which is proven to be the best for historical fiction. His characterization is also perfect. He managed to describe d’Artagnan’s short-witted yet clever personality completely, giving us no space to be confused. Athos’ and Lady de Winter’s temperaments are also written wholly. However, I regretted that Porthos’s and Aramis’s personalities are not described further for they can be another interesting part for the readers.
The Three Musketeer’s main themes, as I could comprehend, are friendship and adventure with romance and historical events as its minor themes. This friendship theme is explored through the loyalties between Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d’Artagnan. The three musketeers were very faithful towards their young friend, seen from their companionship for d’Artagnan during the mission to England. They even sacrificed themselves for the sake of their friends! We would say that it is a very incredible relationship we rarely find nowadays. D’Artagnan and the musketeers’ many adventures proved to us that adventure is another theme of this novel. You could feel that Dumas wrote this story as a remembrance of France in 17th century, where there were a lot of swashbuckling, risky, yet interesting adventures for they who crave for them.
As for the minor themes, you would find that d’Artagnan was a very romantic person from his interviews with Madame Bonacieux and Lady de Winter. Athos’s past with Lady de Winter will also strengthen our idea about this romanticism.
I found that The Three Musketeers doesn’t have much moral messages for us. I discovered it as a relaxation and a medium to release off the fatigue we received from our daily activities. It really is, from its light style of language, its adventurous and romantic them, its constant conflicts and revelations, etc.! This novel is one of the classics that are fit for them who seek for refugees from the madness of daily activities. Swashbuckling, funny and interesting, this novel will certainly refresh you off your fatigues and make you sink in its occurrences.